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No more dev-blogs, for now at least

Good news: Zero G Arena has finally launched in Early Access, and so far is a big success. Am really busy though, as a result, and I don’t think this blog-thing is worth the time, since I’m pretty sure no one reads it.

Dev blog #12 (23rd July 2016)

All going to plan, the game will be releasing in free Early Access sometime next week. Currently just waiting for Valve to enable multiplayer functionality and review the game.

This week, I’ve added a team deathmatch game mode, which seems to work so far, but I’ve been unable to test online. This took a fair few days, because I had to introduce the concept of teams, including friendly fire and the appropriate feedback. The good news is that it will be pretty fast to add other team game modes now that’s done.

The time that I haven’t spent working on team deathmatch this week I’ve just been setting up the game’s Steam store page and making sure all the legal business is sorted out prior to the Early Access launch.

Devblog #11 (19th July 2016)

You may already be aware that the long delayed demo will now be arriving in the form of free early access. This is because it turns out Steam’s demo system is probably not suitable for what I was planning with the demo. A Valve employee recommended free early access instead. The principle difference being that anyone who downloads the game in early access for free will get the full version without paying any more. I think this will work out the best for the game in the long run, as my hope is it will help in establishing a player-base early on, which is absolutely vital to a multiplayer-only game.

I seem to have neglected to log what I’ve been doing for most of last week for some reason. I’ve definitely been very busy, but I cannot for the life of me remember what with. Probably research into early access or something, which I may not have felt compelled to log, seeing as that’s not direct progress on the game.

Anyway, I’ll be pushing towards the early access release as fast as possible now. Probably next week rather than this one, seeing as early access is sort of an official release of the game, I believe there are some legal things I might have to sort out.

In any case, I am planning to make one new addition at least, before early access, which is team deathmatch. One good reason for this is that it will be much faster to add other game modes after this one, as I need to rearrange some architecture first. Hopefully I’ll be be able to then release updates with new game modes very quickly. I’ve actually almost finished this already, seeing as I’ve once again left last week’s dev-blog till halfway through this week.

Devblog #10 (12th July 2016)

Whoops, devblog really late this week (was supposed to be up between Friday and Sunday). Ah well, I’m pretty sure no one reads these anyway. They’re more for me to look back on if I can’t remember what I’ve been doing (highly likely). Hello future self.

Really major progress last week. Demo finally ready for release. Was going to be out today, but it seems I’ve got to wait for the main game store page to be approved by Valve. Anyway, the demo release is a pretty big deal for me. If the demo is not well received, then there probably won’t be a great deal of point in continuing the project. If it is well received then there’s no reason the game won’t have some degree of success, in which case I may be able to continue with my current plan of funding another game with the proceeds of this one.

Anyway, the main breakthrough of last week that has made the demo ready for release is the discovery that no port forwarding is needed to host a listen server and for clients to connect. This was a huge surprise to me, but it’s been tested pretty extensively, and does indeed seem to be true. I’m not entirely sure what is responsible for this miracle, but having done a very small amount of research, I think it might be a Steam feature. In any case, the main issue of the last few weeks has been trying to get dedicated servers working. The main reason I deemed dedicated servers necessary over listen servers was that I didn’t think you could expect the majority of users to be messing around with port forwarding. Now that I know this is not needed, hosting a listen server just involves clicking a button from the in-game menu, so I think listen servers will be sufficient for the time being at least. It’s a shame I didn’t know about this sooner, or the demo would probably be out by now. At least I’ve been able to make some other improvements, while waiting for Valve to sort out everything on their end that would have been needed for dedicated servers.

Here are some of the other major developments from last week:

-I finally managed to alter the moments of inertia for the ragdolls, in order to reduce the spinnyness. I much prefer the feel of the zero-g mechanic this way.

-Finally managed to randomise player spawn locations. This was far harder than you would think.

-Made sure the armour still glows when you set the colour to black. This is to stop people from being invisible against black backgrounds, such as the walls on the “Temple” map.

-Managed to do a playtest with (I think) 8 players. Hadn’t been able to test with any more than 4 previously. There were a few minor issues, but none to do with the number of players, which is very good. Really grateful to all the testers.

Anyway, demo should be out as soon as Valve reviews the store page (Estimated 2-3 days).

Devblog #9 (3rd July 2016)

Here is an extract from last weeks entry: “Assuming Valve get back to me early next week and it results in the dedicated servers working and I have time to actually rent and set up some servers and the 8 player test does not reveal any major problems, the demo could be out at the end of next week. My personal prediction is that none of those things will happen.”

Would you believe it, I was right, none of the conditions were met. In fact, in every case they were even more not-met than I imagined. Valve not only did not get back to me early in the week, but did not get back to me at all. Also the 8 player playtest did not reveal and major problems, because it did not happen at all.

I spent most of last week updating to Unreal Engine 4.12 in the hope that some of the UE4 bugs from 4.10 would be fixed. As it turns out, none of the ones affecting my game were fixed. Also, a lot of new bugs in my game appeared after updating. It was quicker to just revert to UE4.10 again than fix them, so that’s what I did, undoing several days of work. I then had to re-implement everything I had added since updating to 4.12.

It has not been a particularly good week.

I am getting increasingly concerned about how long it is taking to get the demo out. I have reason to believe progress on the game will speed up substantially after the demo’s out and working though. Nonetheless, I very much doubt I’ll be able to meet my originally intended release date of August/September this year.

Anyway, the good news is at least the control editing menu is done.

Devblog #8 (25th June 2016)

 

Current cause for delay of demo is issue with dedicated servers that I am waiting for a response from Valve on.

In the absence of anything else I can do to speed up the release of the demo in the meantime, I’ve been working on some general improvements and additions:

  • -Hopefully have configured steam to stop overwriting character customisation every time I update the game. Am yet to upload update though, so haven’t tested this yet.

  • -Fixed a bug where clients were unable to pick up more railgun ammo after the first time. Thanks to the testers who found this bug.

  • -Made the volume more even between weapons

  • -Added volume controls (or rather wired up the unimplemented volume controls)

  • -Updated to the latest version of the Unreal Engine. This was a huge faff and took several days. Hopefully it will have fixed some of the unreal engine bugs the game is suffering from.

  • -The third party menu I’m using has some new features for the new engine version, so I re-added the latest version to the game. The new features that I’ve been able to make use of are bloom, gamma and brightness settings. There was also a key-rebinding system, but I did not particularly like the way it worked, so I’m doing my own.

  • -Started work on a key-rebind menu. Should be done in the next couple of days.

Assuming Valve get back to me early next week and it results in the dedicated servers working and I have time to actually rent and set up some servers and the 8 player test does not reveal any major problems, the demo could be out at the end of next week. My personal prediction is that none of those things will happen.

 

Devblog #7 (19th June 2016)

Demo still not released. Not surprised in the slightest. Every week that I say I’m planning to release the demo the following week, some new bug or something crops up and prevents me from doing so. Therefore, this is my official announcement that I have no hopes of releasing the demo this week.

Ok, here’s a breakdown of the demo delays this week:

Uploaded dedicated server binaries to steam. On testing, they seemed to work when entering the server I.P manually, but didn’t appear on the server list. Was informed that the Steamworks documentation for dedicated servers is currently out of date, and would be updated on Tuesday. Wasn’t a great deal I could do without accurate documentation, so I waited till Tuesday.

On Tuesday, while waiting for the documentation to be updated, I did some more testing with 3 steam users, using a listen server. This revealed some more bugs, the most serious of which kicked a player to the menu seemingly at random. I fixed this the next day (so far as I can tell at least).

Here is a description of the bug, and the process of fixing it, if that kind of thing floats your boat:

What I believe the problem was was that some kind of buffer for networked functions in UE4 was being overloaded. Presumably this is some kind of safety feature to stop a client overloading everyone’s connections. Anyway, I worked out (from the game logs) that the function causing the problem was the one that reports a clients current aim direction to the server. I reduced the bandwidth used by the function by using compressed data, and made sure the function was called less regularly by only calling it if the client’s aim had changed (Should have done that already, really, but this particular function has probably been in the game for over a year, so I’d forgotten about it) and also, setting a maximum call rate of 120Hz (since it later transpired that the player who encountered the bug had an enormous framerate of over 300fps, which would have helped in triggering the bug).

Anyway, having spent Wednesday fixing this new bug, it seemed to be fixed upon testing. Although some more bugs were encountered in this testing process, which I then spent much of Thursday fixing. They weren’t very interesting. Made a few other minor improvements while I was at it. On Friday, I finally got round to looking at Valves new documentation for dedicated servers on steam. Followed the instructions for allowing the server to run anonymously (I.E not being associated with a specific steam account), which I think might have something to do with why they don’t currently show up on the server list. Having followed the instructions though, it doesn’t seem to have worked. Am still waiting for a response about this.

I was also meaning to fix a few minor issues with the Linux build this week, but wasn’t expecting so much trouble with the servers.

Dev blog #6 (11th June 2016)

Will keep it short this week. Too busy trying to get demo ready for release. Delayed again this week for various reasons. Demo will potentially be released next week, finally. I won’t get my hopes up though, because there’s plenty that can still go wrong.

Possibly added Linux support this week. A few possible minor bugs in testing though, so I’d like to find the cause of them before I announce it officially.

Also started work on a new map while waiting for various other things that were out of my control. More on this later.

Dev blog #5 (3rd June 2016)

All the issues I’d had getting the game up on steam were resolved shortly after last week’s dev blog. The game might just have been set to be released the Wednesday after, as planned, except upon testing with two very helpful steam users, we encountered a bug where the game either crashes, or players are disconnected when two players or more join a listen server. This later turned out to be two separate bugs, both of which I’ve since been able to fix. I wouldn’t have been able to fix it without the help of a whole bunch of Steam users, who helped me reproduce the problem, so thanks again to anyone who helped with the testing this week. Some more good news is that with the bugs fixed, the game seems to run very well online (I’ve had problems before with characters jittering and the like, but it seems pretty smooth now).

The demo should be out any day now, but I’m reluctant to set a firm release date yet, in light of all the surprise problems that keep showing up.

Here’s a list of things I’m aware of that need doing before I can release the demo:

-There is still one major issue that’s not yet fixed where a couple of steam users reported Steam crashing as soon as they started the game. Very strange that this should only happen for a couple of people. Also very strange that it should happen as soon as the game starts, because very little, if any code I’ve written will have been run by then. I might have to release the demo anyway, and see if I can determine the common factor once more users have had the problem. Let me know if that sounds awful.

-I need to start renting, and set up the dedicated servers.

-There is also a minor issue with the server list menu, where the ping always shows up as 9999. This is a confirmed UE4 bug that is fixed for UE4.11 (ZGA currently uses UE4.10), but it is a colossal faff updating to the next engine version, so I will probably either try and incorporate the fix into my engine build, or just leave the problem alone for now.

Dev blog #4 (28th May 2016)

I said last week that I was hoping to release the demo this week, unless there was a delay in getting it up on steam. Surprise surprise, there’s been a delay getting it up on Steam. Almost every step in the process has gone wrong in some way. It’s still going wrong as I type, but I think it should have gone right before the end of next week. I won’t bore you with the details.

Anyway, still hoping for next week to release the demo, but I won’t officially announce it yet, because there’s still plenty that can go wrong.